Amanda Kyle Williams

The Stranger You Seek
Set in the dead heat of Atlanta’s sweltering season, The Stranger You Seek (Bantam Books) is a chilling treat, from creepy start to shocking finish. “Atlanta can be a hard city in summer, when the days are long and the unblinking sun sends temperatures soaring,” Amanda Kyle Williams writes. “Tempers flare. Steam billows from overheated engines, and stepping onto the street feels like stepping in front of a heat blower. Atlanta broils in its own anger. And now . . . I knew another killer was roaming the streets.” In her first major release, which begins a projected series, the longtime Decatur freelance writer introduces the fabulously flawed character of Keye Street, a former FBI criminal profiler and recovering alcoholic who ekes out a living serving subpoenas and chasing bail jumpers. Physically unimposing at best—110 pounds “after drinking a couple gallons of water” and five-foot-four-and-a-half on tiptoes—she relies on hard-honed instincts and a quick wit to survive in a lawman’s world. Through an old friend, Keye is drawn reluctantly into the terrifying case of a serial killer who taunts police with the promise of more victims. “You have either concluded that I am a braggart as well as a sadist or that I have a deep and driving need to be caught and punished,” the murderer writes in a letter published in the Journal-Constitution. To lend authenticity to Keye’s voice, the author studied criminal profiling, worked with a private investigation firm, and even became a court-appointed process server. The extra effort—along with a great deal of talent—pays off in a smart, character-driven story with surprising twists.

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REIGN OF MADNESS (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Lynn Cullen follows up her sparkling debut novel, last year’s The Creation of Eve, with a historical novel just as intricately detailed and gorgeously written. In Reign of Madness, Cullen finds her muse in Juana of Castile, the unlikeliest of monarchs in early-sixteenth-century Spain. As the third child of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Juana became queen only after the untimely deaths of the siblings in line ahead of her. After being betrayed by her husband, her father, and then her firstborn son, “Juana the Mad” spent the last forty-six years of her life confined in the palace. From such rich history, Cullen imagines an even richer fiction. “A birdcage might be gilded, but it is still a cage,” she writes. Though she cannot solve the mystery of whether Juana was truly mad or what exactly happened to her between her fairy-tale beginnings and grotesque demise, Cullen has created another masterstroke of historical romance. In full service to the story, perfect sentences are strung together like so many pearls: “Drums were thumping in the distance like the heartbeat of God.”
COMING UP FOR AIR (St. Martin’s Press)
Patti Callahan Henry, who lives with her family on the Chattahoochee River, dives into the murky depths of mother-daughter relationships in her latest confection. After her controlling mother dies, Ellie begins to seek some of life’s harder truths. With the help of a documentary filmmaker who happens to be her ex-boyfriend—this is chick lit, after all—Ellie begins to piece together her mother’s tale of unrequited love as she ponders her own troubled marriage.

Macon author Nora McFarland serves up the second installment of a madcap mystery featuring Lilly Hawkins, a TV news photographer and amateur sleuth in Bakersfield, California. While covering a massive wildfire, the irrepressible Lilly is distracted and ultimately consumed by the accidental drowning of a girl she used to know.

Photograph by Amy Gibbons

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